Dads Need Some Love, Too

The Magnolia Project is a women’s health and wellness center that is primarily a maternal and child health program that provides case management services to local women of childbearing age. I connect with and provide case management to the male partners of these women in order to support clients on a more holistic family level. In my efforts to recruit and manage the caseload of fathers in our program, I assist them with setting and keeping track of goals that are important and relevant to them. I aim to give these men support and confidence in their fatherhood, affirming their intentions and efforts to be the best fathers they can be.

I remember when I was able to connect a client to assistance for $200 toward his rent, and the gratitude he expressed was incredible. His outlook and quality of life improved significantly afterward because I helped him overcome an underlying problem in his life, which prevented an avalanche of other problems that might have stemmed from his monetary insecurity. Ever since then, he has been telling me about how he has found the time and mental stability to find a job and focus on attending pediatric appointments with his children.

The pandemic has disallowed me from making in-person home visits that my position would normally involve, and instead I rely mostly on remote contact via phone call. Naturally, this limits the level of connection I have with clients and poses a challenge in communicating and building the rapport and trust that is essential to success in the program. As a young never-before father trying to revitalize a men’s group, I can’t say it’s been easy. Many of my efforts have fallen through with zero attendance or group sessions simply being one-on-ones. But I still offer a shortened version of a Boot Camp for New Dads class and a social issues class to give participants a chance to have conversations about topics they might not have many opportunities to discuss in their everyday lives. I encourage engaged parenting activities in my clients such as reading to their children and having their infants breastfed. I make sure to let them know when they are doing a good job, so they get the recognition and respect as a parent that they deserve. Meanwhile, I am trying to form the semblance of a group. In that effort, one step of progress I made was offering a virtual football watch party to get some men to meet each other and enjoy themselves. I dropped off snack bags at their houses beforehand to add an extra feeling of inclusion to the event. I like to think I have a positive impact in the lives of my clients by showing that someone is there for them as they embark on their fatherhood journey, and by connecting them to resources they can appreciate and benefit from.

This blog was authored by NHC Florida Member John Dang.

John serves at The Magnolia Project as a case manager.